Author Archives: dover1952

Easy Access List——Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists

Math

How Archaeology Is Like a Math Test

We get numerous visitors and views at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog each day of the year.  However, I have noticed that very few visitors ever read our 13 blog articles (thus far—and more to come) in our ongoing series of articles entitled Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists. Over my past six decades, most artifact collectors and other citizens I have ever known hope for an opportunity to pose a few questions to professional archaeologists, and they hope even more to obtain a longer and better answer than what they often get. I had hoped this series of blog articles would answer some of the common questions artifact collectors and ordinary citizens on the street often ask. Perhaps you found it hard to navigate from one question to another on this blog.  If that was so, I kindly apologize and have a solution to the problem.

It occurred to me that I could make such navigation much easier for you by creating a list of the questions, stating the main subject matter of each question, and leaving you the proper hyperlinks to click on——and go immediately to whichever questions interest you. I have done that for you in the list below. Have fun—and if you think of any knew questions you would like to ask, you may click on the Leave a Reply button to the left under the title of each blog article and leave a comment containing your question. You may also send a question to me by e-mail.  Just click on the Contact Button at the tops of our blog pages. Here is the list of questions and the safe hyperlinks to click:

 

Question No. 1

Archaeologists, How They Work, and Their Rectangular Artifact Curation Boxes

 

 

Question No. 2

Misunderstandings and Weird Interactions Between Professional Archaeologists and Artifact Collectors

 

 

Question No. 3

Why Archaeologists Write So Much!!!

 

 

Question No. 4

An Endless Supply of Artifacts for Artifact Collectors

 

 

Question No. 5

The Importance or Unimportance of Artifact Rescue

 

 

Question No. 6

Artifact Collector Suggestion on How to Seek Vengeance Against Professional Archaeologists

 

 

Question No. 7

How the Word “Looting” Is Actually Defined in American Archaeology

 

 

Question No. 8

A Legendary Archaeology Book

 

 

Question No. 9

Archaeology, Artifact Collecting, and Playing Social Roles

 

 

Question No. 10

Famous Archaeologists’ Con Game to Steal Artifacts from Artifact Collectors and Citizens

 

 

Question No. 11

A Few Thoughts on On-Line Artifact Collector and Treasure Hunting Forums

 

 

Question No. 12

Why Your Artifact Collector Buddy Was Arrested

 

 

Question No. 13

Some Basics on Understanding Federal/State Laws and Regulations Affecting Artifact Collecting

 

 

Question No. 14

“We Artifact Collectors are Better Quality Human Beings Than You Archaeologists: You Archaeologists Hide Most of Your Great Artifacts from the Public—but We Artifact Collectors Put our Artifacts on Display for the Public to File Through and View. Nya-Nya-Nya-Nya…..Nya.”

Next Question to be Addressed—TBA

 

An Unusual Circumstance in the History of Tennessee Archaeology

by Tracy C. Brown

Brown and Chapman II

(Left) Graduate Student Tracy Brown and (Right) Dr. Jefferson Chapman at 40MR23 in the Summer of 1977

The Archaeology in Tennessee blog presents this reminiscent blog article and the accompanying photograph as its official contribution to Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month for September 2019.

Do you have one or more favorite subjects in Tennessee archaeology or American archaeology? I sure do. The history of Tennessee archaeology is one of my favorite subjects. To be quite honest, I never expected to have any sort of appreciable, front-and-center recognition for my small role in that history. However, on that count,  a strange circumstance and fickle fate caught me by total surprise one day between 10 and 15 years ago.

On that particular day, I was in the midst of performing archaeological research here in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and it suddenly became necessary for me to examine some items on file in the archaeology laboratory at the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture on the main campus of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK). When I arrived at the museum, the laboratory double-doors were locked, as they always are, even when multiple people are working inside. Therefore, elsewhere in the building, it was necessary to find a museum employee who already knew me to gain quick entrance into the laboratory.

I proceeded into the laboratory, face moving forward, and continued on my business of finding and examining files. After being there quite a while, I happened to turn my head back toward the entrance doors and—much to my surprise—there it was! Someone at the museum had used a plot printer to print out a huge (4-ft X 2-ft), poster-size version of the above photograph showing Dr. Jefferson Chapman and me examining a large sherd of prehistoric pottery. This photograph was tacked to the back side of one of the laboratory entrance doors, and it remained there for many years. Dr. Chapman soon entered the laboratory that day, and I just had to ask the obvious question. Out of the thousands of 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s photographs taken during the Tellico Archaeological Project, why did the museum feel compelled to pick out that one photograph, blow it up to poster size, and tack it to a laboratory entrance door?

According to Dr. Chapman’s response, they were looking through the old Tellico Archaeological Project photographs for some university public relations event, and they suddenly noticed something important—and even a bit shocking. The field photographs for the Tellico Archaeological Project contained no clear, outward visual indication that UTK archaeologists or UTK student archaeologists were wearing or wielding anything clearly showing that UTK personnel were part of the Tellico Archaeological Project. For example, no UTK archaeologist or UTK student archaeologist appeared to have been photographed wearing a UTK tee-shirt or sweat shirt while doing archaeological fieldwork on the project. After looking through all of those old Tellico archaeology photographs, I was the only person who just happened—quite by fickle fate—to be wearing a University of Tennessee tee-shirt when doing Tellico archaeological fieldwork—and at the exact same moment when an official visitor to the site needed to take an archaeological photograph.

Solely for the history of Tennessee archaeology, let us take a closer look at the above photograph and its contents. This photograph was taken in June 1977, during the Tellico Archaeological Project. The Department of Anthropology at UTK was conducting excavations for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that summer. Our first excavations of the season were conducted (as shown in the photograph) in the Middle Woodland component at the Icehouse Bottom site (40MR23) near Vonore, Tennessee. Dr. Chapman was the Principal Investigator that summer, and Ms. Patricia Cridlebaugh was his Field Director.

The main channel of the Little Tennessee River was located approximately 31 meters to the right of the location where Dr. Chapman is standing in this photograph, and our waterscreens were operating only a few meters to the right of where Dr. Chapman is standing. I was working at the waterscreens in the late morning when an official photographer (probably from TVA, the National Park Service, or National Geographic Society) arrived at 40MR23 and wanted to photograph what we were finding. Because I was working close by, Dr. Chapman quickly asked me to come over and be part of the shot. In the photograph, Dr. Chapman and I are holding a large ceramic sherd from one of the 5-foot excavation squares in the background. It was most likely a sherd of sand-tempered Connestee series pottery dating to the Middle Woodland period. (In the old days, southeastern archaeologists used the English system of measurement rather than the metric system, and the standard southeastern excavation square measured 5 feet X 5 feet).

Now, we take a close look at the objects and people in the background of this old photograph. Please take a look at the instrument with the white legs? That was our analog transit, which was used to take horizontal and vertical measurements on our site and to maintain 3-dimentional spatial controls on our excavation work and what we were finding. The digital Total Station most archaeologists use today either did not exist in 1977, or it existed only as a very early version that was far too expensive for UTK to purchase. (Personally, I suspect Total Stations did not even exist at that time.) One of the quirks of the old analog transits involved summer heat. The instrument would get so hot under a blazing sun that it required manual recalibration several times per day to maintain the consistency and accuracy of the field measurements taken with it.

Summer of 1977 was my happiest, ever before and ever after, site excavation work in Tennessee archaeology—with one very important exception. The excavation units at 40MR23 had poison ivy growing at the ground surface on top of them. Its roots extended straight down into the soil about 46 to 71 cm. Apparently, I was the only person on the site who was allergic to poison ivy, and as a  direct result of troweling down squares, I was soon taking steroid injections and prescription pills to deal with a major-league breakout from skin contact with the poison ivy roots. All of those poison ivy block chemicals young archaeologists slather on today to prevent breakouts did not exist way back in 1977. Neither did many of the modern UV-ray blockers, which protect skin from sunburn and skin cancer.

Those thick, gray and yellow, parallel lines far in the background of this photograph are limestone rip-rap and loose, hay-covered soil to prevent soil erosion.  They are associated with Fort Loudoun, which was under archaeological excavation by Dr. Karl Kuttruff and his large field crew. Fort Loudoun was a British colonial fort built and occupied by colonial militia from South Carolina in the middle 18th century.

The one thing that rendered these 1977 Tellico excavations so much fun was the unique collection of people on our field crew. We all got along fabulously with each other, and as Patricia Cridlebaugh noted in the Acknowledgements section of her final written report on our Middle Woodland excavations at 40MR23:

My deepest appreciation goes to my field crew who daily performed professionally; often gave more than required, and worked, lived, and played together in unity and good harmony despite an oppressively hot, dry summer. To always have a crew comprised of Bob Asreen, Tracy Brown, Mona Butler, Judy Canonico, David Denny, Leslie Hickerson, Vera Mefford, S. H. Roderick, and Kathy Sarten would be the ideal. Each crew member possessed at least one skill at which he [or she] excelled; however, since a crew runs on its stomach, Sarten’s excellent culinary skills deserve special mention. Also, a very special thanks goes to Judy Canonico who worked harder than the rest of us even though she did so for room and board only.

The people (left to right) in the background of this old photograph are Vera Mefford (a UTK archaeology student wearing her authentic pith helmet), David Denny (a tall UTK archaeology graduate student who had a wonderful sense of humor), Judy Canonico (with her signature white head bandana and navy blue overalls), and probably Bob Asreen (standing next to Judy on her right and slightly behind my shirt sleeve). Patricia Cridlebaugh, Leslie Hickerson, and Mona Butler are working in excavation units somewhere farther to the right and behind me in the photograph.

Ms. Sarten and Mr. Roderick were stationed at our archaeology field camp and its archaeology field laboratory, located far away by road from 40MR23, on Highway 72S, right next to the Carson Island Baptist Church. It was an evangelical church camp with individual wooden cabins. Each cabin (and its interior overhead wasp colonies) could sleep eight archaeologists in bunk beds. The camp also had a separate, wooden kitchen building with a large, screened-in dining area and another large, separate wooden building that served as our archaeological field laboratory. Our camp also had two widely separated concrete block restroom/shower buildings, each associated with the all-male and all-female cabins. The male cabins were distributed in a straight linear pattern along an old fence line on the north side of the camp. All but one of the female cabins were distributed in a long arc behind the kitchen/dining building. The camp cook occupied a more isolated cabin right next to the kitchen/dining building.

Our Tellico field camp facilities had no air conditioning, and during one week of the 1977 field season, the temperatures (not the heat index) climbed to 100 degrees F. or more—and stayed there for several consecutive days. On one day, which was a regular fieldwork day for us, we had a recorded temperature of 107 degrees F. That was the summer Elvis Presley died. At the end of that long, hot day in the field, we sat around the tables in the dining area—baking in the late afternoon heat—eyes glazed over—staring blankly into the distance—and listening to the latest radio news reports on the death of The King of Rock and Roll. (Think archaeological zombies and The Living Dead.)

Tennessee archaeology and American archaeology students need to know something important. On some of your worst days, I know many of you quietly mumble the following question beneath your breath like so many other college archaeology students have done in the past:

Is there some sort of worthwhile life out there for me after being an archaeology student?

The members of our 1977 Tellico archaeology field crew pretty much proved that there is, but you have to be smart, focus down, and work hard to make it come true. Our Tellico camp cook (Ms. Kathy Sarten) and I got married (for 40 years now), and we both had long and successful environmental science careers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Judy Canonico went on to earn a B.S. degree in nursing and worked successfully in the healthcare field. Together, Vera Mefford and her husband (David Mefford—now deceased) started their own corporate consulting company and successfully provided values-based management and employee evaluation/improvement training to major corporations and small businesses. Mona Butler went off to The University of Texas at Austin (UTA) to get an M.A. degree in anthropology—but soon switched over to the law school at UTA. After earning her J.D. degree, she went on to become a highly successful attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Virginia. David Denny moved back to his native Virginia and became a successful businessman.

Patricia Cridlebaugh, who was a very close and dear friend of ours long after 1977 at Tellico, went on to become the first-ever woman to earn a Ph.D. degree in anthropology (archaeology concentration) at UTK. She worked happily in southeastern archaeology for a number of years, but unfortunately, “Pitty Pat” (a nickname Leslie Hickerson loved), died young from colon cancer in the very early 1990s—leaving behind her beloved dachshund named Bentley and our mutual close friends who lived near her in South Carolina—Wayne Roberts and Carol Roberts. Even now, after 30 years have passed, we all have days when we feel a bit hollow inside over losing Patricia—and would do just about anything to see her alive again. Patricia was a very special person, and those of us who knew her loved her.

Dr. Jefferson Chapman moved on to become a Research Associate Professor of anthropology at UTK, and he later became the Director of the Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. Under his long, wise, and dynamic leadership, the museum improved by leaps and bounds and turned into one of our nation’s best university museums. He retired in September 2019. Whoever succeeds him (be it a man or woman) will have some mighty big shoes to fill.

Unfortunately, we lost track of Leslie Hickerson, Bob Asreen, S.H. Roderick, and their accomplishments across several decades, but they were all outstanding folks,  and I feel certain they were successful in whatever they chose to do in life. Mr. Roderick no doubt retained the same placid face and stiff upper lip for which he was so famous among the members of our field crew.

Historical Lessons Learned:

(1) If you are doing archaeological fieldwork for your university, college, museum, or CRM firm and you feel that you will one day need to use fieldwork photographs for historical, marketing, public relations, or other significant purposes, make sure at least one or more members of your field crew are photographed wearing one of your university, college, museum, or corporate T-shirts on site during the excavations. Future historians of Tennessee archaeology and American archaeology will be glad you did, and that tee-shirt may even be a major clue a future archaeological historian can use to solve a problem in their research. Needless to say, it would be better if the people on your field crews are not photographed wearing tee-shirts or clothing representative of other universities, colleges, museums, or CRM firms.

(2) Students who are new to Tennessee archaeology are sometimes unaware of the fact that they and their actions are actually creating history and creating Historic period archaeological components. We Tellico archaeology folks contributed our own part to the Historic period component at our archaeology field camp. Our old field camp is still completely above the high water line of Tellico Lake, but all of the wooden cabins and other buildings, which in retrospect were so near and dear to us, were torn down decades ago. The field camp soon became enshrouded with massive vegetation growth. In the early 1990s, Kathy and I picked our way through some of that vegetation to see if any archaeological surface features from our old field camp still existed. All we could find was the poured concrete floor of the screened-in dining room. The vegetation was too thick to search for the concrete floors of our laboratory building and the two restroom/shower buildings. Our cabins had wooden floors poised on corner piers of rock or concrete blocks.

The members of the Tellico archaeology field crews are now old men and women in their middle 60s and 70s—and probably a few in their 80s or dead. A couple of years ago, I kindly asked Dr. Chapman to look through the official Tellico archaeology photographs to see if he had any shots of the kitchen/dining building and candid shots of people in our Tellico archaeology field camp. He could not find any.  Apparently, no one ever bothered to create an official historical/archaeological record (with photographs) for our Tellico archaeology field camp. That is not surprising. When we, as young people, were working, living, and playing there, it seemed so very “ho-hum” current and unimportant.

Now that 43 years have passed us by, Tellico archaeology is seen as a major part of the so-called Second Golden Age of Tennessee Archaeology. Our old Tellico archaeology field camp, and even the nearby Carson house, which housed the Toqua field crew at one time and the Fort Loudoun field crew, are now unique and important aspects of the history of Tennessee archaeology.

All Tennessee archaeologists and historians—you and I—and especially our young folks—need to be more cognizant of the fact that we are not just passing through Tennessee history. We and our activities are creating Tennessee history and laying down new archaeological components or new portions of already existing archaeological components. In the present, we should be recording what we are doing for posterity—like we should have been doing at our Tellico archaeology field camp.

For example, do we have exterior and interior photographs and recorded information on the West End Avenue building (in Nashville) that housed the first-ever Tennessee Division of  Archaeology Office in 1972? What do we know about that office building? Was it state-owned or just rented? Does the building still exist? Do we have its floor plan? Do we know which rooms were the first offices of Mack Pritchard and John Broster? I know that would have sounded unimportant in 1972—and perhaps even now to some. However, I can guarantee you a Tennessee archaeological historian or historical archaeologist in the year 2210 will be willing to give her eye teeth for those simple bits of information.

We who live in the historical and archaeological present need to be more mindful of recording the seemingly unimportant historical and archaeological details of the present as a gift to future Tennesseans. What seems so current, “ho-hum,” and unimportant today will be important to someone in the future.

Photograph Credit: Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture, Tellico Archaeological Project, Tennessee Valley Authority, and whoever else took official photographs for the Tellico Archaeological Project in 1977.

Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month 2019

September is officially Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month (TAAM) in the Volunteer State. That month is upon us already—what a fast summer it was—and the month long celebration of Tennessee archaeology is already in full swing. My favorite aspect of the TAAM celebration is the blogfest where a Tennessee archaeologist or guest archaeology writer posts a new blog piece on Tennessee archaeology for each day in September. That is 30 blog posts plus an occasional bonus post that spills over into early October. You may visit the 2019 TAAM blogspot by clicking on the following safe link:

2019 TAAM Blogfest

Just to whet your archaeological appetite for the blogfest, Dr. Kevin  E. Smith at Middle Tennessee State University has just posted an update on his archaeological research at the Noel Cemetery in Nashville—a large Mississippian period site with huge mortuary significance. This blog piece is really excellent, and it involves some classic gumshoe archaeological detective work. You will love reading it!!!

Some additional information on TAAM 2019 and its associated activities is available at the Facebook page of the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA):

TCPA Facebook Page

One of those activities is a huge archaeological celebration being held at Pickett State Park in Pickett County this weekend (September 7, 2019). If you are interested in sandstone bluff shelter archaeology in Tennessee, you will want to attend this celebration and tour the new archaeology museum located near the main office for the park. This museum is in a former ranger residence house. I have yet to visit this museum, but from reading various snippets about it here and there, it sounds like a fun place to go and learn a few new things about Tennessee archaeology.

Beware: More on the Madison Tablet

Our past article entitled The Continuing Search for the Madison Tablet has been permanently deleted from the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. It now rests in oblivion. If any of you kind visitors or regular readers have ever downloaded a copy of this article to your personal computer, laptop, electronic tablet, smart phone, etc., I would kindly encourage you to destroy your copy.  I need you to do that so no person can ever find your copy and misuse it for supporting science denial, creation science/intelligent design (like that stupid Bible museum in Kentucky), or any other unscrupulous or nefarious purposes.  Just remember that I legally own the copyright to that article, and if I see you using, misusing, or abusing it in any context without my written permission, you are going to court.

This message is for all artifact collectors and museums all across the United States and in foreign nations. If any person ever uses or attempts to use that article as “written proof” that the Madison Tablet is an authentic, prehistoric American Indian artifact, you need to walk away immediately and inform your fellow artifact collectors and museum personnel about the scam that someone is trying to unload on you. In the text of that article, it plainly says that the Madison Tablet may be a fake artifact. Neither is it a replica of any other prehistoric or historic artifact that has ever been deemed an authentic American Indian artifact.

We now believe that this incised limestone slab is at best some sort of weird garden rock or item of folk art that was made sometime in the 20th century—perhaps as part of a public school art class. Furthermore, it was most likely associated with one of the past Caucasian families that lived on the site where it was found during the Historic period (A.D. 1765 – 2019) in the Nashville area.

Note for the Owner of the Madison Tablet

After taking a closer look at the field circumstances under which the Madison Tablet (Figure 1) was found and after obtaining a better understanding of the person who found it in the field—and their now known inability to properly interpret what they were seeing in the field, I have concluded, beyond any reasonable doubt of my own, that the Madison Tablet is not a prehistoric or Historic period American Indian artifact. It is most likely an odd-looking piece of 20th century folk art, a piece of personal art created by a rather untalented student in a high school or college art class, or a decorative garden rock. In fact, for many years, a gardening and nursery business was located at the curb of Gallatin Road in a location very near to the large archaeological site where the Madison Tablet was found.

Madison Tablet

Figure 1. Freehand Drawing of the Madison Tablet

(Tablet Measurements are 14 in. x 10 in. x 3 in.)

As previously noted on this blog, the incisings on the Madison Tablet do not contain any of the typical artistic motifs and themes associated with traditional Mississippian period art in Tennessee or the American Southeast. In other words, the Madison Tablet does not fit in with the now well-understood canon of Mississippian period artistic styles and related mythologies. I now feel certain that my fellow professional archaeology colleagues here in Tennessee and elsewhere would agree with my revised assessment of the Madison Tablet. Indeed, I strongly suspect that my colleagues, bless their hearts, have been snickering and joking behind my back about what an idiot I was to even entertain the possibility that the Madison Tablet might be a piece of prehistoric art. This change of my mind is the primary reason why this tablet and the images incised on it were no longer used as the logo for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute after May 2018.

The Madison Tablet was found in 1968 at a time when massive earthmoving was underway on a portion of a large Mississippian period archaeological site in preparation for construction of a “big box” Zayre’s discount store, quite similar to K-Mart and Wal-Mart stores. This earthmoving had most likely impacted the human burial wherein the Madison Tablet was found. Given the presence of a Historic period component associated with the occupation of an old house on the site, such soil disturbance would easily explain the presence of the oddball artifacts found in the grave, including a complete broken-off rim from a Mississippian period ceramic vessel and dinner table knife with a bone handle. Both the Madison Tablet and these other artifacts were likely redeposited in this human burial from some nearby location by the operation of large earthmoving equipment such as bulldozers and backhoes.

Finally, I feel fairly certain that the current owner of the Madison Tablet has seen my assorted metropolitan newspaper and social media pleas for the past 12 years—all pleas for him to get in touch with me and provide me with an opportunity to closely examine this tablet. For some unknown reason, this person has perpetually sat on their bottom and never gotten in touch with me—and so have his artifact collector friends who know he owns it. That refusal was certainly within their rights to do. I have no idea what their motives were, and I refuse to speculate any further on that matter.

For the current owner of the Madison Tablet, whoever you are, I have just one crystal clear message for you this afternoon. Here it is:

One thing all professional scientists know is that our understandings of various objects, phenomena, and processes change over time as we obtain more information and revise our perspectives in light of it. This is normal in the world of science. My recently revised understanding of the Madison Tablet has hereby officially removed it from its former status as a quite possibly authentic prehistoric American Indian artifact. As a result of this change in status, the Madison Tablet that you bought from Danny Lea or someone else for $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, or $10,000 is now officially worth maybe—just maybe if you are lucky—$2.98, meaning just shy of three dollars. As the old saying goes, “Karma can be a real bitch!!!” Life is just like that sometimes.

I will close with a brief warning to the current owner of the Madison Tablet and all other artifact collectors who read this message. If the owner of the Madison Tablet tries to sell you this tablet as an authentic prehistoric American Indian artifact from a Mississippian site in Tennessee, he will be committing a crime called fraud——-that is if he has read this message first. Any artifact collector who reads this message and is stupid enough to buy the Madison Tablet, or trade an authentic artifact for it, will lose a whole bundle of money or trade value for nothing. I know how much artifact collectors try to avoid supposedly prehistoric artifacts that are not authentic. The Madison Tablet is now officially one that you definitely need to avoid.

Archaeology and the Oxford Comma

more-oxford-comma1

Most people have never heard of the term Oxford comma. Some of you know what it is when you see it, even if you do not know its name. Others of you never learned about it at all because your English teachers just gave up on you and your ability to remember where to insert it in a sentence.

I remember when that happened. It was circa 1971 here in Tennessee. That was the year Tennessee K-12 English teachers ripped the clothes off their bodies with their bear hands in great frustration because only three out of every forty students in a classroom could remember where to put it in a sentence. Standing there naked in front of their English classes, they and the English textbook writers got together and said:

Just forget that comma and leave it out.

Personally, I have always had a love affair with the Oxford comma. Whenever I am editing some fellow scientist’s work, which I have done very often across many years, it goes something like this with me:

Happy!!! Bouncy!!!  Happy!!!  Bouncy!!!  Happy!!!  Happy!!!  Bouncy!!! Bouncy!!! Blood Curdling Scream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not one of them again!!!!!!!!!  He left out the Oxford comma!!!!!!!!!!

(Editing is not just a job for me.  It is a highly emotional experience.)

What is the Oxford comma?  When you are writing a sentence and you string three or more items together in a series, the Oxford comma is inserted immediately before the coordinating conjunction  (and, but, or, nor, for, so, etc.)  Here is a good example:

John bought grapes, oranges, pineapples, cherries, and apples.

That last comma right before the “and” is the Oxford comma. That is indeed its official name in the realm of English literature and grammar. Anyone who writes scientific journal articles, reports, work plans, procedures, book chapters, and books should always use the Oxford comma to ensure their writing is crystal clear.

Really bad things can happen, and people can even get killed, if you do not use the Oxford comma regularly and correctly in your archaeological writing or any other scientific writing, especially in writing engineering manuals, ES&H plans, and industrial procedures.

How does omitting the Oxford comma screw things up? Check it out by clicking on the following safe link:

The Oxford Comma: A Science Writing Must-Have

Failure to use the Oxford comma in your writing can be extremely expensive. If you do not believe me, take a look at the horror stories in the article at the following safe link:

The Single Commas That Cost Companies Millions of Dollars

If you do not use the Oxford comma regularly in your archaeological writing, you need to start doing it. A famous old saw says:

Cleanliness is next to godliness.

My favorite Princeton University alumnus, an English major and fellow writer who detests opaque scientific writing, had something different to say:

Clarity in writing is next to godliness.

Some American archaeologists aspire to becoming gods in their discipline. Please do not ask me why—because I do not know. When I was in college studying anthropology and archaeology in the 1970s, the reigning god of American archaeology was Lewis R. Binford at the University of New Mexico. (Young archaeologists tell me there is no reigning god in American archaeology today.) Binford was a poor writer. He became a god by creative thinking and hiding his poor writing from his fellow archaeologists and the American public. His first wife (Sally Binford) cleaned up all of his messes on paper before they were issued as final documents. If you want to obtain god-like status in American archaeology and do it the right way, reach for clarity by using the Oxford comma regularly in your archaeological writing.

Warning: Field Archaeology and Blood-Sucking Arachnids

It is springtime in Tennessee!!! Actually, as far as the weather is concerned, spring came in early February here in East Tennessee. Spring, summer, and early autumn (the warm months of the year) are the most important times for doing field archaeology in Tennessee and throughout much of the southeastern United States. Summer has traditionally been the highest activity period for field archaeology. Field archaeology is associated with numerous environment, safety, and health (ES&H) issues. One of those issues involves blood-sucking arachnids and the transmission of dangerous and debilitating diseases.

The folks at Georgia Outdoor News have just published a really interesting and up-to-date article on this subject. It is a must read item for anyone planning to do field archaeology in overgrown fields or woodland/forest environmental settings. You may read this excellent and timely article by clicking on the following safe link:

Danger of Life-Changing Illness from Tick Bite

This article is not just for professional archaeologists. It is for any young person who has enrolled in their first archaeology field school class. If you are one of the many Tennesseans who likes to participate in the major archaeological site tours (really hikes) led by archaeologists at the Tennessee Division of Archaeology or an archaeologist at one of our colleges or universities in Tennessee, the above article is for you too. Indeed, it is for anyone who has ES&H concerns and associated plans for warm weather outdoor activities in Tennessee or any other state where these little blood suckers live.